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Small Gestures of Compassion Deliver Surprising Results for Children in Foster Care

Feeling led to meet the tangible needs of children in foster care, one young girl launched a ministry initiative to provide for those needs and has made an impact across multiple states.

National Foster Care Month in May, features the urgent needs of foster children and the 20,000 young people transitioning out of the foster system each year without permanent housing.

Never minimize small gestures of compassion. Especially from children.

For example, a simple but clever idea to cheer up children in foster care popped up unexpectedly at the home of Eric and Trisha Porter in Midlothian, Texas.

Eric Porter, 47, founded Backyard Orphans to bring awareness and a voice for the more than 391,000 children in U.S. foster care. He is the CEO. His wife Trisha, 47, serves as chief engagement officer. Both are Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries with Chaplaincy Ministries.

Backyard Orphans is a catchy metaphor that reminds the church to care for the children, youth, and families in their community “backyard” who feel orphaned. Many are involved in foster care.

“100,000 kids need a foster family today, or face being warehoused in group homes or seedy hotels,” Eric Porter emphasizes. “God did not call us for comfort, but for combat.”

Porter believes God uses soft approaches too.

While following a lively and typical family discussion around the dining room table one evening in September 2017, the Porters’ six year old daughter, Halle, quietly left the room.

She returned waving her favorite Barbie doll, announcing, “I want every little girl in foster care to have a doll just like me.”

Hugging Halle, her mom suggests, “Let us see what God can do.”

Just a few weeks later, women attending the North Texas District Council’s annual women’s ministry conference heard about Halle’s idea. During that meeting, hundreds of dolls purchased by the participants flooded the altar. Halle’s small gesture grew wings, resulting in distributing the dolls to little girls throughout their Texas county.

Fast forward to March 2023 when Halle, 11, accompanied her father on a preaching trip to New Life Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I was talking to my daddy on the way to the airport, when God spoke to my heart that girls and boys in foster care needed clothes and shoes,” she recalls.

The Holy Spirit’s stirring in the Porter vehicle and what happened at New Life opened the way for recognizing a new initiative, Halle’s Heroes.

Todd Blansit, New Life Lead pastor, described Halle’s suggestion to his congregation. He invited Halle to stand in the church lobby after each service with a bucket to raise funds for children’s clothing. The congregation, including youngsters, filled two buckets with cash and change totaling $3,600.

Other churches had responded as well with additional funds and supplies.

Halle’s Heroes fills a real need because many children placed in foster homes arrive with only the clothes on their backs. It provides essentials such as underwear, socks, pajamas, shoes, toothbrushes, diapers, toys, car seats, and bedding.

Halle and her parents introduced the new ministry at the General Council last year in Columbus, Ohio.

“We spoke to 300 to 400 kids at Camp GC and in classes encouraging them to be heroes in their own towns,” Trisha Porter says.

Working from their Texas home, the Porters and their staff (3 fulltime & 11 part-timers) continue recruiting churches. Some of these staff members are AG U.S. missionary chaplains and are available for workshops.

The Porters walk the talk, parenting four biological children alongside two adopted children.

Todd Blansit and his wife, Tiffany, have followed a similar path. They began fostering two girls on weekends 11 years ago before adopting them three years later. They have also adopted a son.

Their church encourages families to consider fostering and provide practical support. In the past decade, New Life congregants have fostered more than 250 children. Currently, 100 families have opened their homes to children in need of a safe place.

New Life’s foster care life group recruits, trains, and supports families in addition to liaising with state and county organizations. The church is also raising funds for a new 20,000 square-foot building to supply clothing and household supplies for community foster care families.

Sara Ramirez and her husband, Del, adopted two girls, Ariana, 10, and Makenzie, 8, while attending Oaks Church in Red Oak, Texas. Although they already had four children (two biological and two adopted), they were moved by Eric Porter’s presentation at a Sunday service in 2018.

“While Eric highlighted the girls’ sad history, God used that moment to speak to our hearts,” Sara Ramirez, 46, says.

Eric and Trisha Porter accompanied the Ramirez’s to their final court adoption hearing on July 17, 2019.

Oaks Church had supported the Ramirez family throughout the adoption process. Its dedicated foster and adoptive ministry gives practical help to foster and adoptive parents - babysitting for new placements, meals, handyman home repairs, clothing, and supplies.

“Halle’s small gesture, prompted by the Lord, is opening new opportunities for Backyard Orphans to raise up the next generation of foster and orphan care leaders,” Eric Porter says. “Halle has a God-sized dream to see every child in U.S. foster care impacted by the loving hands and feet of Jesus.”

Porter has new projects lined up in 2024, aiding AG Districts and Networks in the U.S. and around the world to build teams to do the work of Backyard Orphans in their own backyard.

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Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.